This review initially ran with our coverage of New York Comic Con 2015. Check back after each new X-Files episodes airs for recaps by Chris Cabin.
Honestly, our present society and time is probably a much better fit for The X-Files than it was during the era when it first debuted. Questioning authority has become par for the course, and luckily, the creators of the show took this fact to heart when bringing back Mulder and Scully. The premiere episode of the miniseries also should assuage any doubts that now is the right time to bring back a series that has been away for quite some time. Granted, X-Files was able to satiate fans with two movies following the TV series’ end, but it’s still been quite some time since the show left Fox’s airwaves in 2002. In several ways, this works for the show’s benefits, but also can be a little tricky for those who are looking to jump in blind.
Let’s begin with what’s good about the premiere: Mulder and Scully themselves. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are able to transition into their old roles with ease here, bouncing off one another and retaining that chemistry that made the show such a hit to begin with. While the show presents them as no longer being a couple, I think this take actually works, as the duo were never exactly the type you saw having a happy ending in any sense. Mulder has isolated himself from the world at this point in the series, falling further and further from society, while Scully is doing the exact opposite, working in a hospital and trying to do as much good as she can. Their relationship is the shining force of the premiere, and you can tell the two have a long-standing connection that just can’t be topped. It almost makes every other interaction in the initial outing seem inconsequential.
As deftly as Duchovny and Anderson are able to slip back into their characters, so to is the setting able to go back to its roots, while also incorporating scenarios that have played out in the real world during the show’s absence, to make the sense of conspiracy that much stronger. Series’ stalwarts such as Agent Skinner at the FBI make their returns, and new characters — such as Joel McHale as a Fox News-style Televangelist — reflect our current time period, and bring something new to the mix. Again, this miniseries seems like it will make fans of the original series happy, as it is a return to form on nearly every level.
Unfortunately, I think The X-Files suffers from a similar problem as the recent Heroes Reborn series that NBC brought back. While it does try its best to get new viewers up to speed with a five minute monologue by Agent Mulder at the start, about what happened in the previous series and what has happened since then, it’s tough to really feel out some of the emotional beats without having a vested interest in what did happen before. It’s the continuation of a nine-season series after a fifteen-year absence (not taking into account the movies of course), so I feel that it may be a tad difficult for some newcomers to really dig their teeth into this six-episode outing.
But for long-time fans, I can tell you that the overall force of the main plotline is standard X-Files fare. The showrunners stated at New York Comic Con that a few episodes will cover the overall mythology/main plot of the series, while the others will focus on episodic adventures for Mulder and Scully to tackle during their return. I believe it has been hinted at that the notorious cannibalistic family may be making a return, which for me was by far the most disturbing episode of the original series. Twists and turns run amuck in the opening episode, but it never seems overwhelming, and is simple enough to follow without feeling lost, though again as I mentioned above, I think it could have worked a bit more in trying to keep new viewers up to speed.
For die-hard fans, this new series will be a must watch, if this premiere episode is any indication, though new viewers may want to brush up a little more on the series and its inner workings before diving right in. Duchovny and Anderson make this pilot ooze with charisma and help lead us along the path of the unknown. While I don’t think this is on the same level as Marvel’s Jessica Jones and Starz’s Ash Vs. Evil Dead (both of which I also was able to see at NYCC) it still made for a good time and should be a nice miniseries to satiate those dying to know whether the “truth is still out there.”
Rating: ★★★★ Very good — Damn fine television
The X-Files returns Sunday, January 24, 2016 at 10/9c on Fox; check back here for weekly episodic recaps.